Last updated on January 7th, 2018 at 08:27 am
At one time Mexico was known to be a great inexpensive vacation destination but times have changed. True, it is still a much better value than many popular tourist spots but if you are budget conscious it takes a bit more work to stick to it, especially in the beach destinations like Puerto Vallarta or Playa del Carmen. That is why we are sharing our top ways to save money in Puerto Vallarta.
Even though taxis are fairly inexpensive, if you’re on a tight budget you can save a lot of dinero over time. Taxi fares are usually 70 pesos within one zone and increase with every zone you cross. Buses are only 10 pesos anywhere within Puerto Vallarta. Even if there are four of you sharing a taxi the bus will still be half price…and that’s assuming you only cross one zone!
I know this one may be a bit scary for some of you due to a fear of contracting Montezuma’s revenge but we have eaten street tacos dozens of times and neither of us have had even a mild case of the trots as my Mom used to say. We tend to go to the busy stands in heavier traffic areas, we give the place a once-over to make sure it looks pretty clean and we always wash up or use anti-bacterial gel before eating with our hands. Of course there is no way to guarantee we won’t get sick (which is true back at home too) but we feel that Puerto Vallarta is a pretty safe bet as it’s very clean and full of ex-pats and turistas. We’re happy to be saving money by enjoying a tasty meal sometimes for as little as $1!
Generally served between 1pm and 3pm for one low price you will usually get a soup or salad, a main dish (often with 3 or 4 options), a desert and a beverage. Some restaurants actually only offer a Comida Corrida and it will be hand written on a board out front but even expensive restaurants may have this offering in the afternoons. The food is good and hearty and great bang for your pesos.
As in much of the world Happy Hour or Early Bird specials are offered in many bars and restaurants in Puerto Vallarta. However, one tip is to read the sign closely as the so-called Happy Hour 2 for 1 specials are often offered all the time not just at “Happy Hour”.
Many people tend to have a larger meal at dinner time which is not necessarily cheap or healthy. A better option is to have your main meal for lunch and then a lighter evening meal. You tend to get more value at lunchtime (i.e. Comida Corrida) plus you will be able to burn off the calories through the afternoon and evening. Another option is to share meals which again will save your waistline and budget. Of course, if your budget only allows for $1 street tacos you’ll just be munching on them throughout the day!
If you’re in need of a cold cerveza (and you will be) when you’re at the beach or out and about, stop at a tienda and grab an ice cold brew rather than go to a bar or restaurant for one. They will be cheaper and taste just as good and are often even colder than in the bars. In Mexico, you are allowed to be in public with an open beer so you can enjoy it wherever you are. Many places will have single beers in ice and you can help yourself to a couple of scoops to put in your bag to keep them cold.
Here in Puerto Vallarta, there are plenty of options for groceries including Costco and Walmart as well as local favorites Sorianna and Mega but the best deals are often found at the local markets. If you have a kitchen or at least a fridge make a trip to the market in Zapata which is open daily and buy some fresh produce. We would often haul away at least four shopping bags of fruit and veg for $10 or less…and it’s all fresh and mostly locally grown!
I know this one may spark some controversy but if you don’t mind wasting a few hours (it will not be 90 min as they promise) it is a way to get great deals on tours and merchandise. Don’t feel bad about the street hawkers, they know the game and they get paid based on how many people they get to attend the pitch not whether or not you buy. The sales people at the resorts also know it’s a numbers game as with most high pressure sales. The fact is some people do buy into it and if they don’t they will likely tell their friends about how beautiful the resort was and that’s called advertising. We tried out this trick ourselves and were rewarded with one of our favorite Puerto Vallarta experiences.
This can be a tough one for North Americans as we’re not used to bartering but it is not only common here in Mexico but also somewhat expected. When haggling always be polite, fair and easygoing. Take a lesson from the beach vendors who almost always have a smile on their face and a witty line and don’t take it too seriously…you do get more bees with honey. In the end though do keep in mind that they are trying to make a living so stop at a reasonable price rather than go for rock bottom.
Aside from the fact that one of the greatest things about traveling is meeting new people another good reason to get to know the locals is that they may share some secret “non-gringo” spots with you. When you make new friends ask them where they like to eat, drink, dance or go to the beach. Chances are you’ll be introduced to some hidden gems that the other turistas don’t know about and you can bet they will be cheaper than the spots on the typical tourist trail.
Take Yelapa for example. You can only get there by boat and if you are staying right in Puerto Vallarta you will be told that you have to take a water taxi from the pier at a cost of at least 350 pesos per person round trip. However, we found that there is also the option of taking a bus to Boca (10 pesos from Old Town) and then a water taxi from there to Yelapa for about half the price (prices vary a little). You do have a 30 min bus ride each way rather than just the boat but if budget is your main concern tips like this can help a lot.
If you are traveling solo or as a couple, making new friends can be fun and cost effective. Talk to the people at your hostel/hotel or apartment and see if anyone is interested in doing a tour somewhere. If you can increase your numbers you can save a ton of money, and in our opinion have a better time, by hiring your own boat or vehicle. For example, we had nine people who wanted to get out on the water, do some snorkeling, fishing, beach exploring etc. so we made a deal with a private boat for a full day. He basically took us wherever we wanted to go and was also a great tour guide. Of course, it would have cost a fortune for just the two of us but with a group, it was much less than a standard set tour and we got to decide the schedule!
Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.